After excelling in a six-game stint as New York's starting PG, Toney Douglas has (once again) proven he has the skills to take on the job full time in the future.
It is time for the Knicks to stop dreaming of CP3 and Deron WIlliams. Instead, they should start grooming Douglas into the elite PG that he has the potential to be.
Douglas getting the better of Mike D'Antoni's former protege
With two max contracts guaranteed through 2014, the Knicks need to spend wisely if they want to be able to fill out a competitive roster. By signing a third superstar in Chris Paul or Deron Williams, the Knicks would be forfeiting nearly all of their cap space.
They would be left with peanuts – even less than Miami had after signing their big three (they all signed for less than the max) – to fill out the rest of their lineup.
Douglas, meanwhile, is locked in at under $2 million for the next two years, with a team option for just over that figure in the 2012-13 season. A qualifying offer of just over $3 million has been set for 2013-14.
If the Knicks could re-sign him for anywhere near that figure, they will have a solid starting point guard for the rest of the decade at an affordable price. That would leave plenty of cap room for the center that New York so desperately needs. It would also provide the flexibility to resign key players like Landry Fields and Shawne Williams.
With talent like this on the roster, the Knicks don't need to break the bank for a point guard.
As proven by the Lakers, the Magic, the Mavericks, and to an extent the Miami Heat, teams with a certain amount of talent do not need a superstar running the point to be successful. What they do need is an intelligent and capable ball handler and, ideally, a defensive stopper.
The perfect example, though, is Boston’s Rajon Rondo. Despite scoring under 11 points per game, Rondo excels at setting up his all-star teammates with a league leading 12 assists per game. He backs that up with solid defense, making his value to the Celtics immeasurable. Of course, Rondo is now a perennial all-star himself.
Don’t get me wrong. Douglas, currently in his second year, is no Rondo. But he has the potential to be a similar piece to the Knicks’ championship puzzle.
One thing Douglas does have over Rondo is a jump shot.
“Dogged defender with good lateral movement. Can check 1s and 2s.”
This is how ESPN analyst John Hollinger’s scouting report of Douglas begins.
The Knicks cannot continue to give up over 105 points per game and expect to be an elite team. Douglas has the intensity and the defensive mindset to help stop the trend of horrid defense.
In a March 2010 NY Post interview, Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier gave a glowing review of Douglas’ defensive skills:
“Defense starts with the guards,” he said. “[Douglas] does an excellent job getting in passing lanes, keeping guys outside of the paint, which is what you need.”
Frazier continued, “I think we’re similar players. He does a lot of the things I used to do.”
For him to make that comparison says a lot.
Douglas has a lot to learn from he 34-year-old Billups, a former NBA Champion and Finals MVP
Billups knows a thing or two about winning, and while he is in New York, he can be the perfect mentor for the 24-year-old Douglas.
Again, it is just Douglas’ second year, and he is far from the finished product. If he can improve his game management (he was at the forefront of the Knicks’ near meltdown in Memphis last Wednesday) and become more comfortable as an offensive facilitator, he can give the Knicks exactly what they need at the point.
And speaking of Billups, Douglas was a solid 4-2 when he stepped in for the injured veteran. With his increased role and minutes, Douglas was able to put up an impressive 16.5 points per game on 52% shooting and, perhaps more importantly, 7.5 assists.
If Douglas could improve or even maintain those numbers over the course of a season, New York may well have a third all-star in the making. Of course, he needs to get the minutes in order to do that.
Douglas has been playing for Mike D’Antoni since he turned pro. Selected 29th overall in the 2009 draft, he became a Knick when New York bought his draft rights from the Lakers. While the guard’s role has shifted over the course of the previous seasons, it is safe to say that Douglas has a good grasp of the D’Antoni system and knows what his coach wants from him.
You may have noticed that D'Antoni has no problem giving Douglas an earful on the sideline. Perhaps this is a sign of the coach's high expectations for the sophomore guard.
The next step is to slowly integrate him into the starting role. By the time Billups is gone, Douglas will be more than capable of being the Knicks' starting point guard.
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